The sore point of jumping

United States' Brittney Reese during the women's long jump final in the London Olympics.-AP

The jumpers are more prone to injuries because they have to produce a huge amount of ground reaction force at shortest contact time during the take-off to carry their whole body to the maximum distance or to great heights. By Dr. R. Gandhi.

Athletics is derived from the Greek word “Athols” meaning fight, competition or combat. Athletics consist of sprints, middle- and long-distance running, jumping and throwing events.

The jumping events are classified under the following categories: Horizontal jumping events (long jump and triple jump) and vertical jumping events (high jump and pole-vault).

The jumpers are more prone to injuries because they have to produce a huge amount of ground reaction force at shortest contact time during the take-off to carry their whole body to the maximum distance or to great heights. The impact on joints during the landing is another important reason for injuries.

The preventive measures for jumpers include a good warm-up followed by a sport specific dynamic stretches. To reduce the risk of injury, the jumper should ideally stretch all the muscle groups, particularly hamstring and quadriceps before an event. A regular sports massage will also keep the muscles and tendons in good condition.

The athlete should rest for one day in a week so that the body is able to recover. Above all this, over-training should be avoided. A good amount of strength training will make the knee joint strong enough to cope with the jumps and the resultant impact.

The common injuries that afflict jumpers are:

1. Jumper’s knee: It is a pain at the base of the patella or kneecap and is often triggered by over-use. The patella comes under huge stress especially in individuals who actively put extra strain on the knee joint while jumping. With repeated strain, micro-tears as well as collagen degeneration may occur. This injury may seem like niggle but neglecting it can lead to chronic pain and even surgery is inevitable.

Rehabilitation: Apply cold (ice) therapy regularly, wear a knee support, use ultrasound, and indulge in cross friction massage techniques and strengthening of quadriceps muscle. If knee does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery will then become inevitable.

2. Foot and heel pain: It is an injury caused by poor landing techniques. The pain is often felt in the heel spur. The band of tissue under the foot becomes inflamed causing heel pain which may radiate into the foot. Pain is usually worse in the morning.

Rehabilitation: Rest well as walking will only aggravate the injury. Apply ice, wrap a tape around the injured part, do gentle stretches and strengthen the joint.

3. Achilles Tendonitis: The large tendon at the back of the ankle at times flares up in pain because of degenerated tissue.

Rehabilitation: Rest, cold therapy, right shoes and wearing a heel pad will help. Usually anti-inflammatory tablets are used but consult a doctor before taking any medication.

An Achilles tendonitis surgery will be the last resort.

4. Hamstring pull: Often caused by a tear in one of the hamstring muscles, the pain is felt as a sudden sharp jab at the back of the leg.

Rehabilitation: The first 48 hours post-injury is a critical period. Healing measures include cold therapy, usage of a compression bandage, gentle stretches, gradual sports specific stretches ad usage of ultrasound and other forms of electrotherapy. In severe ruptures, a surgery may be needed to repair the damage.

5. Groin strain: This is an injury caused by a tear or rupture to any one of the adductor muscles in the groin region. The adductors are extensively used in all the jumping events. Groin strains are graded 1, 2 or 3 based on the ruptures. The strain is felt through a sudden sharp pain in the groin area.

Rehabilitation: Apply R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation) immediately. Use crutches if needed. Gently stretch the groin muscle provided it is comfortable to do so. See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation of the injury. Tape the groin to take the pressure off the area. Surgery is necessary if the muscle has torn completely.

The author is a national athletic coach at the SAI Southern Centre, Bangalore.